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SANCTIONS ON IRAQ
Before 1990 and the imposition of sanctions, Iraq had one of the highest standards of living in the Middle East. It was a highly urbanized society, dependent on a large service economy, with high standards of healthcare very widely available, and a complex infrastructure typical of a modern society. In 1990 about 71% of the 18.9 million population lived in cities, 80% of the labour force worked in the service sector, with only 12.5% in agriculture and 7.8% in industry. 97% of urban-dwellers and 70% rural-dwellers had access to health facilities, according to United Nations Development Programme criteria.
The World Health Organisation in Baghdad reports that before the Gulf War,
93% of the population had access to a free, modern, high quality health care
system. Today that system is barely functioning.
"People are dying silently in their beds. If 6,000 children are dying each month, this means 72,000 a year. Over eight years, we have half a million children. This is equivalent to two or three Hiroshimas."
Ashraf Bayoumi, former head of the World Food Programme Observation Unit
The sanctions were adopted on August 6, 1990, forty-five years to the day after
the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, killing an estimated
one hundred thousand people and leaving a toxic legacy that still affects the
population of the area. As horrific as the use of nuclear weapons against Japan
was, perhaps five to ten times as many people have died in Iraq as a consequence
of the war led by the United States and Britain, under United Nations (UN) auspices,
during the last decade.
In May 1996, Iraq reached an accord with the United Nations allowing it to sell $1 billion worth of oil every 90 days, with the money set aside for food and medicine, compensation to Kuwaitis, and other purposes. In Oct 1997, the UN disarmament commission concluded that Iraq was continuing to hide information on biological arms and was withholding data on chemical weapons and missiles. U.S. weapons inspectors were expelled from Iraq in Nov 1997, and a U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf ensued. As Iraq ceased cooperating with UN inspectors, the United States and Britain began a series of air raids against Iraqi military targets and oil refineries in Dec 1998. In Jan 1999, the United States admitted that American spies had worked undercover on the inspection teams while in Iraq, gathering intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs. A new UN arms inspection plan that could have led to a suspension of the sanctions in place since the end of the war was devised by the Security Council in Dec 1999, but Iraq rejected the plan.
Basically, Iraq is being collectively tortured for its defiance of American domination plans for the region. Even official U.N. reports document that nearly 1 million Iraqis, mostly the young and the elderly, have died in the past eight years as a direct result of American policies. The Security Council consistently blocks vaccines, analgesics and chemotherapy drugs, claiming they could be converted into chemical or biological weapons. Even the morphine, the most effective painkiller has been banned by the Security Council.
One of the way the Iraqi government can win support from other nations is by promising lucrative post-sanction oil contracts to potential allies. Most experts believe that Russia, China, and France will be the main beneficiaries of these promises and expect that these countries will support softening the sanctions. However, the sanctions are not likely to be fully lifted as long as Hussein remains in power. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government is expected to focus on circumventing the sanctions, primarily through oil smuggling.
Ten years on, despite evidence from top former UN arms inspectors and from other international agencies that Iraq has been "qualitatively disarmed," the sanctions remain in place. Sanctions will be maintained "until the end of time, or as long as he (Saddam Hussein) is in power," ex-President Bill Clinton said.
The U.S. policy of economic destabilization and overthrow in Iraq will not lead to a democratic government, but rather to a dictatorship compliant to U.S. bidding, as has been shown time and again.
Nations Security Council documents on Iraq
"11 years of sanctions, 6000 die each month, over 250 die a day,1 child every 7 min 1.5 Million Total " Unicef
"What had been one of the most advanced health, education and welfare systems in the Arab world was now in what seemed to be a state of terminal collapse."
Eight years of war with Iran (1980- 1988) followed by the Gulf War of 1990-1991
left Iraq and the Iraqi people exhausted. The economy and, as a result, the
infrastructure of the country lay in ruins. After nine years of trade sanctions,
imposed by the UN after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, the situation
of civilian population is increasingly desperate. Deteriorating living conditions,
inflation, and low salaries make people's everyday lives a continuing struggle,
while food shortages and the lack of medicines and clean drinking water threaten
their very survival. In Iraq, it is the weakest and most vulnerable who suffer
from sanctions, the elderly and people with chronic diseases.
According to a UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) survey published in August 1999, infant mortality in most of Iraq has more than doubled in the nine years since UN sanctions were imposed. In central and southern Iraq, home to 85% of the population, the death rate for children under five rose from 56 per 1,000 live births in the period 1984-89 to 131 per 1,000 in 1994-99.
For the first time in decades, diarrhea has reappeared as the major killer
of children. The highly specialized Iraqi doctors are now faced with third-world
health problems which they were not trained to handle. According to UNICEF statistics
from November 1997, a third of all children under five are chronically malnourished.
This represents a 72% rise since 1991. Results from a nutritional survey of
15,000 children of the age of five, conducted by the Iraq Ministry of Health
together with the UNHCR and WFP in May 1998, show that the level of malnutrition
has stabilized since 1997 but that the situation is unlikely to improve substantially
unless water and sanitation and other sectors receive larger financial input.
The iraqi children have not had proper drinking water or sanitation since they
One of the major threat to the health of the population is the quality of the drinking water. The Gulf War severely damaged Iraq's infrastructure, interrupting the power supply and consequently the operation of pumping and treatment facilities. A UNICEF / Government of Iraq survey in 1997 on the availability of water and sewage systems reported than more than half of the rural population did not have adequate access to clean drinking water, while for sewage disposal some 30% of the total population, predominantly in rural areas, were without adequate services. Much of the waste is discharged directly into rivers and streams, so that much of the water supplied is contaminated or below acceptable standards. As a result children are dying of what should be treatable diseases: simple diarrhea, typhoid, dysentery and other water-borne illnesses.
Standards of care in hospitals and health centers have reached appalling levels, despite the doctors' dedication and high qualifications. Iraq's 130 hospitals, many of them built by foreign companies in the 1960s and 1980s, have not received the necessary repairs or maintenance since the Gulf War, but above all since the imposition of sanctions. The buildings are in an advanced state of disrepair (cracked and leaking roofing, broken windows and doors, bulging floors), as are the hospital sewage works, the electricity and ventilation systems. Expensive imported equipment, or even more basic items are no longer being replaced. Hospitals are short staffed with doctors and nurses salaries insufficient to support them. Medical equipment like incubators, X-ray machines, and heart and lung machines are banned.
Equally worrying is the state of the primary health centers, which serve the widest sector of the population. Public health in Iraq rests on the existence of over a thousand basic dispensaries covering the entire country and 84 intermediary health centers, which are in charge of coordination. The centers cannot function properly owing to the shortage of equipment and material. They often lack the most basic tools such as stethoscopes, sterilizers and writing paper. The negative impact on the treatment received by patients and hence on their health, is immense.
After the Gulf war Iraq was not allowed the equipment to clean up its battlefields. More than 1 million rounds of weapons coated in depleted uranium (basically nuclear waste) were used by the allies during the war.
As much as 300 tonnes of expended depleted uranium ammunition now lies scattered
throughout Kuwait and Iraq. Depleted uranium dust gets into the food chain via
water and the soil. It can be ingested and inhaled. Prolonged internal exposure
leads to respiratory diseases, breakdown of the immune system, leukemia, lung
cancer and bone cancer. Consequently, the number of cases of cancer has risen
sharply especially in southern Iraq. If cancers continue on the present upward
curve, 44 per cent of the population could develop cancer within ten years. Cancer
specialist Dr Jawad Al Ali says 40-48% of Basra's population have been contaminated
with depleted uranium.